Charing Cross (bottom of View Street), Bendigo
Also known as Olympia’s Skating Rink, Lyceum, Lyric Photo Plays
Showing films from: 1913
The Lyric went through many changes over the years, the site on which the Lyric was built was originally home to a skating rink and was called ‘Olympia’s Skating Rink’. Following that the building was then converted into a live theatre venue called the Lyceum before finally becoming a cinema in 1913.
When the building re-opened as a cinema, following extensive alterations, it did so under the name ‘Lyric Photo Plays’, later shortened to just the ‘Lyric’. Its grand opening took place on the 24th February 1913, the opening film, now largely unknown, was Put Yourself in His Shoes. The cinema’s arrival was excitedly anticipated in the local press.
The Bendigo Advertiser ran a long story two days ahead of the opening giving a detailed description of what visitors would find inside:
The artistic grills in front give the theatre a nice light effect, and this is set off by the beautiful white metal ceilings. At the bottom of the stairways are two large bronze figures supporting electric lights. Proceeding up stairs, which are covered with linoleum and carpets, with neat brass finishings, the visitor reaches the gentlemen’s cloak-room on the first landing, with an entrance from each side…
… On reaching the top of the stair way and entering the dress circle one is impressed with the splendid clear view, which is obtainable of the picture screen, the seats being so arranged that all the occupants will be able to have an uninterrupted view of the photo plays…
… On either side of the dress circle is constructed a private box, capable of seating nine people, upholstered in fancy red plush and nicely railed off…
As for the auditorium downstairs…‘this allows for the comfortable seating of 2000 people’… the picture screen is 30ft. by 28ft., and it is surrounded by a beautiful fancy proscenium of fibrous plaster, studded with electric lights‘.
Two refreshment kiosks were provided in the cinema and an open-air promenade and lounge, where ‘a splendid panoramic view of the city can be obtained’. The building was equipped with a sliding roof that which could be opened on hot summer nights to give cinemagoers some relief from the heat.
With a good location in the centre of town the Lyric was very popular with the people of Bendigo. Though not all memories were so pleasant, one couple remember watching mice running around the high level mouldings on the cinema walls during screenings! However, most people do have happy memories of the Lyric, with cinema tickets costing two shillings for the stalls, sixpence more for the dress circle and ice creams at threepence each how could they not.
The Lyric screened its first sound film on the 4th October 1930, it was Song of My Heart (1930, dir. Frank Borzage, starring John McCormack, Alice Joyce), the film portrayed the sad story of a broken hearted Irish tenor. Later in 1954 the Lyric became the first country theatre to show widescreen Cinemascope films.
Bendigo had at least six cinemas, many of them operating at the same time, so no doubt competition for audiences was tough at times, however there was camaraderie and the cinemas would help each other out, one example is the way the Lyric and the Star in Eaglehawk made use of the tram that ran outside both cinemas to exchange film reels during the intervals. The tram conductor would meet the projectionists out the front of the cinema and exchange the reels of film.
The Lyric closed in 1965. The last film it screened was Mr Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962, dir. Henry Koster, starring James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara), 4th September 1965. Two years later in July 1967 the Lyric was destroyed by fire, though much of the building remained standing until it was demolished to make way for the Bendigo Bank headquarters in 2005.